Google’s Chrome browser for iOS is now open-source, which may make it better for consumers and create new avenues for developers.
In a blog post, Google noted that open-sourcing the iOS version of its browser simply wasn’t possible previously, thanks to a lot of technical overhead. Specifically, iOS browsers must use WebKit, Apple’s preferred rendering engine. It’s not a technology Google used elsewhere, which kept the iOS version separate from all other versions of Chrome.
Google’s homegrown engine, Blink, is present in the desktop and Android versions of its browser. The team was initially resistant to include the iOS version because of the WebKit/Blink complexity, but slowly migrated it over.
“We’ve spent a lot of time over the past several years making the changes required to upstream the code for Chrome for iOS into Chromium,” the team wrote. “Today, that upstreaming is complete, and developers can compile the iOS version of Chromium like they can for other versions of Chromium.”
Because it’s Google, this open-source release comes via its Chromium portal, not GitHub or another repo (as some might assume). If you’ve never worked with Chromium, it’s Google’s base-layer code for its browser as you know it, but also a host of third-party browsers.
Though nothing sensational has come of Chromium (outside of Chrome, of course), browsers such as Opera, Yandex, and Vivaldi are built on it. It also uses the Apache license, giving developers the opportunity for fair-use within their own apps, or to create a standalone browser of their own.
By including Chrome for iOS in Chromium, Google hopes to accelerate its development and streamline the testing it does across platforms for Chrome. But in open-sourcing it, Google also paved the way for some really good alternative browsers and excellent in-app browsing.